Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Reality Behind the ASA Boycott of Israel

The Reality Behind the ASA Boycott of Israel

By Joseph Puder 

The American Studies Association (ASA) voted last month to boycott Israeli institutions of higher education for alleged violations of the human rights of Palestinians. The ASA declared that the boycott was in “solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and an aspiration to enlarge the freedom for all, including Palestinians.” Not only is the statement false, since Palestinians are not deprived of attending schools, but Israel is the only country in the world to be singled out by the ASA for a boycott.

Larry Summers, the former President of Harvard University, observed that “the ASA boycott was possibly anti-Semitic if not in intent, then in effect.” Perhaps closer to the truth is that the ASA boycotters and many of today’s campus BDS activists harbor a deep anti-Israel animus; an outgrowth of the anti-western milieu created by radical leftist intellectuals who defend the Palestinian cause, as a symbol of anti-colonialism. It may not be anti-Semitism in its traditional form, which was historically rooted in the extreme political right. This is a leftist permutation.

The ASA boycott reflects more than anything else the left’s dominance of the culture, specifically, the western culture. Its main vehicle of attack has been the perceived western exploitation of the Third World and thus the need for western atonement. Since the radical left was unable to transform the “bourgeoisie” values of the American working class, or impact the American political process, it channeled its energies into transforming the popular culture by making inroads into academia, the media, and Hollywood.

The left transformed America and Europe with its advocacy of multi-culturalism. It imposed “speech police” – better known as political-correctness – and has chosen for us the good and the bad actors in the global arena. White, rich European and American “imperialists” and “colonialists” have been identified as guilty and evil. The Third World is instinctively identified as the victim and therefore good – irrespective of facts. Islam was posited as the religion of the oppressed, the exploited Third World and therefore always a victim, never a victimizer. It follows from this that the Palestinian Muslims must always be right, while the other side, Israeli Jews, are always the victimizers, and automatically guilty, regardless of the facts or context. This logic has perverted the thinking of the ASA boycotters, the BDS activists, and their mentors in academia.

This becomes particularly apparent on college campuses. The alliance of radical leftist professors and Muslims, constructed on an anti-Israel narrative, controls the conversation on campus. Theirs is the “in” culture, and to be accepted, one has to conform to its dictates. Pro-Israel Jewish and non-Jewish students seeking to defend Israel with facts are confronted with hostility from radical leftist professors and are subjected to physical threats from fellow leftist and Muslim students.

Leftist professors prevail upon the minds of naïve and idealistic students that their capitalist country accumulated its wealth by the exploitation of the weak. Weak-minded students, lacking a counter-argument, and intimidated by their professors, fall prey to their teachings and succumb to narrative. They end up resenting their parents’ middle-class existence, and see it as tainted by greed and unfairness towards the people of the Third World. These simplistic notions professed by their professors spill over to the “persecuted Palestinians” engendering justification for their indiscriminate terror, and their unwillingness to find accommodation with the Jewish State.

The ever present post-colonial guilt embedded in the worldview of the ASA boycotters led them to ignore historical facts, political realities and misreading of the law. A similar attitude prevails on campus, where alleged “underdogs” are chosen from among the Third World, regardless of facts, truth, or reason while ignoring the plight of the real underdogs in the Middle East, and Africa, faced with the effects of Sharia law.

Edward Beck, founder and president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) explained that “It has become academically fashionable to criticize Israel’s legitimate right to exist. This is part of an argument which says that Israel is a manifestation of a post-Colonial period, destined to fail with the imposing of a seemingly non-indigenous people to a region with the modern creation of the state of Israel. This of course, flies in the face of archeology, history and reality.” Beck asserted that pro-Israel advocacy on the campus has become politically incorrect.

One is unlikely to find a college professor these days who will question why Arafat, in spite of Israel’s maximalist concessions made at Camp David and witnessed by President Bill Clinton, refused to “end the conflict” with Israel, and chose instead to wage a bloody Intifada against Israeli civilians. Or, why an Arab-Muslim world with vast empty territories (5,148,048 sq. miles) could not accommodate the Palestinian refugees, while the tiny Jewish State (8,019 sq. miles) was able to absorb a far greater number of Jewish refugees from the Arab world. Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza should have put the “occupation” claim to rest. But the Leftist/Palestinian “occupation” mantra, upon scrutiny, reveals that much of the land that legally constitutes the State of Israel is what is deemed to be “occupied.”

Arab and Palestinian campaigns of war and terror against Israel existed long before Israel won the West Bank and Gaza from Jordan and Egypt respectively in a defensive war. Neither Jordan nor Egypt held these territories legally. And the Palestinians did not exist as a recognized polity, nor is Palestine a recognized state today. These inconvenient facts are immaterial to the anti-Western, and anti-Israel, radical leftist professors and their duped students.

Pascal Bruckner, a prize-winning French novelist, philosopher and essayist wrote in his 2010 book The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism, that “To the Left Wing intellectuals, who no longer know how to understand the world and whose Communist gods have all died, there is no more hope. Their current focus now is the devil incarnate – the US and its pariah Israel.” Bruckner added, “There is a convergence of views between the European (and American, JP) Left, and the Iranian mullahs. In their world, the Jew has become the Nazi, the Palestinian the Jew, and radical Islam is now the victim of Western democracy and not its executioner.” Bruckner suggested, moreover, that those people supporting the Palestinian cause “are not so much engaged in inquiring into a specific antagonism – a real estate dispute involving two equally legitimate owners – as in settling accounts with Western culture.” 

Obscene portrayal of “Israeli Jews as Nazis,” depicted in the European media in particular, has trickled down to college students throughout the West. Yet, there is a sharp disconnect between the average American sentiment towards Israel, which is generally positive, and the anti-Israel feelings so pervasive on many US campuses.

Students on US campuses who have bought into the anti-Israel teaching of their professors and hold the view that “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with facts…” must be made to understand that the need to feel morally righteous must not blind them into supporting Palestinian terror or Islamist intolerance. Their moral compass should be focused on supporting the truly oppressed and threatened in the Middle East: Christians, women, gays, and yes, the Jews of Israel. Hopefully, the anti-Israel bias of the ASA boycotters will awaken the students and faculty members alike to the realization that Israel is a victim of an age old prejudice, unwarranted in modern society. A singled-out Israel among the nations bespeaks volumes about the reality behind the ASA boycott.